Death to Life

What would you say to Jesus after He said this to you? Yeah right? We know what death is. You can’t come back from there. I’ve seen too many die. No one came back. There’s no life after death. What does it matter what’s in your head when you die or what you believe in?

But what does Jesus do to earn your trust? He dies. He puts this theory to the ultimate test and does in a horrific fashion, in a way that there is no question, He is dead. We walk away from Him, saying it’s too bad such a good person died. The good die young. He was too good for this world, and in that, we are smarter than we know.

Jesus dies on a Friday. He lay in His grave all that night. He lay in that grave all day Saturday. He lay in His grave through the early morning. And then ”up from the grave, He arose!” He passed from death into life. No, you can’t keep a good man down.

And all of those who believe in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. All of those who will listen to Him and believe in Him will die, but that death will only be of the flesh. Every believer will pass through physical death and receive eternal life in a new body. How do we know? Because He proved it by Himself. We trust in His ability to raise us up by truth of His own resurrection.

But more than this. We can have life while we live this life, and that life more abundantly. You can have a fulfilled life, not one that looks forward to death, but one that looks forward to what lays beyond the portal of death. We are not like those who have no hope. We have hope in this world, making it much more livable, and hope for the next.

Heavenly Father we thank you sincerely for the example taught to us by your son Christ Jesus who showed us the path from death to life, that we need not fear it. Thank you, Jesus, for setting the example, being the author and perfectly of our faith. May you continue to lead us day by day and show us how to live. Thank you for bearing the weight of all our sins and giving us life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A God-Shaped Hole

There it is. This is why we are never content. This is why we keep looking for the next thing. This is why without God we are never happy. Paul once said “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Why? Because few there are that find it. Without God Life is just a great black hole sucking joy out of all things. God designed with an eternity-shaped hope, a hole only He can fill of we will let Him.

Solomon in his vast wisdom knew this. But this book of his isn’t finished until the end of his life, after he’s made his mistakes. He realizes now towards the end of his life that he really has nothing without God. The world itself cannot fill the vacuum of our heart. And Solomon could certainly have explored every avenue and venture there was in His time. Every pleasure and lust he could invent were his to explore. He did everything there was to do. And he still recognized that none of it was enough. He still felt the god-shaped hole in all of us.

As we come to the close of another year, perhaps you are feeling the same thing. You’ve done everything you can do to fill that hole. You’ve dumped everything you can think of into it and you still feel empty. You’ve tried everything to be happy, and you come to this time of self-reflection and see nothing but dread for the new year.

You have a god-shaped hole in you. You can’t fill it. Nothing you do or experience will ever satisfy that deep hunger for something more until you accept Jesus as your Savior. It may sound like cliche, but Jesus is the only One that can fill your heart because your were designed for Him. That hole is there because He built you that way.

There are places in your life that only your parents can fill, good or bad. The same goes for children. We know how these feel when suddenly these holes are empty. We know the grief and the loss after losing a loved one. We are familiar with these kinds of holes. So it is with this God-shaped void in us.

I urge you today. Don’t turn to a bottle or a syringe to fill that hole. Don’t rely on friends or even family to fill it, because they are not enough. Decide today that you will accept Jesus as your Savior, and be filled.

May God bless you as you go into your new year!

What’s So Special about Us?

This is the value of the Christmas season. If you stop for five minutes and examine why Christmas is a celebration, you realize that Christmas is all about God taking on human flesh. It is all about the incarnation of Christ into a living human being. The date is not important, since no one knows for sure what the date actually was. But the event of Christ’s birth is certain. We know He lived because He died.

So why does that make us special? God did not come into this world as a dog, or an elephant, or a whale. None of those things are nearly as accessible. He did not come as a cat, or a zebra, or a tree. The only vessel that could close go represented who God is is a human being, because we are made in His image. We are the only fitting verse for His presence. Even then, we could not hope to contain His presence, so He limited His essence to fit into a human body. But this is the miracle of the Incarnation.

Since Jesus has come to be like one of us, He offers the invitation to come and be like Him, a child of God. He went and died on a cross for you, so that you would believe in Him and be like Him in His resurrection. What a marvelous and wonderful gift.

Merry Christmas on this second day of Christmas. There’s just too much to celebrate for just one day.

He Will Save

From our perspective, Jesus has saved the world from sin, all those who would be saved. From Joseph’s perspective, Jesus will save, as he had not been born yet in this passage. But from Jesus’ perspective? Jesus has seen the entire narrative from beginning to end.

Consider that as God’s Second Person, Jesus has seen his entire story, his life as a man, play out from beginning to end. He knew what choices He would make before He made them. He had already seen Himself die on the cross, be buried, and be risen again. He knew this without any doubt while He was still in Heaven. He could have said that He has saved the world from the beginning. Since for Him his foreknowledge of time and space was a foregone conclusion.

However, what Jesus has not done was to actually carry it out. He knew Judas would betray Him and that Peter would deny Him, but He has not experienced how that would feel as a human being. That was new. And as much as His omniscience as God could prepare Him, He still begged His Father for another way in Gethsemane, if there might be another way to avoid the suffering of the cross. He knew there wasn’t and there had never been another way, but His human experience begged all the same.

Jesus knew from the day he was born when He would die. That knowledge is a terrible burden. Jesus is the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” He knew from the very beginning. But He still loves us enough to carry it out. Can you comprehend that kind of love?

May you feel God’s love for you this Christmas. All of this is for you. Merry Christmas.

The Light of Men

I want to give credit to my pastor this morning at Better Life from whom I am borrowing this morning. In His message he said that God has not given us a map. We are not given a destination, so we don’t know how it’s all going to work out for us, who we will marry or what career path we will choose. Instead, He gives us a direction. Or more specifically, He gives us a star, just like the Magi. The star gives us a direction. That star for us comes in the form of His word, for his word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.

This light shines into the darkness of o ur lives. Our darkness can not overcome His light. Even in our darkest selves, the light still speaks to us and convicts us. This light exposes the deeds done in darkness, which is why the darkness despises the light and does everything it can to blot it out.

But the darkness can not overcome the light. The light will always be stronger. He will always be stronger. That’s why we follow Him.

May this encourage you this season. Merry Christmas to all!

But Wait, There’s Myrrh!

Three gifts arrived at the home of Jesus’ family 2000 years ago. Whether they came from three “Kings” is impossible to tell. We don’t how much of each of deposited, or if several brought the same thing. Tradition says “three” Magi were involved, but that is based entirely on the three kinds of gifts. (Note: There is a church which claims to hold the three skulls of these men, but collecting relics was a very popular pastime 17 centuries ago.)

All three items were extremely valuable: gold for obvious reasons but the others for the difficulty in extracting them and their fragrance. Frankincense was often used for anointing royalty while Myrrh was usually employed in funerary practice. All three were royal gifts, fitting the narrative that these Magi believes they were looking for the next “King of the Jews”. Odd that we don’t read anything about them coming for any of the Herods. They show up for this one King and disappear.

There is some speculation that Daniel’s role as leader of the Wise Men of Babylon had something to do with their expectation of this King. If right that would be a remarkable amount of star-watching and expectation. But perhaps they were showing up the priests of Judaism by doing so, since the Jews practically had the address of Jesus’ birthplace in their OT Scrolls. Daniel has predicted to the year when Jesus would appear, and Micah predicted the place He would be born. Anyone with reasonable math skills should have known to set up a lookout post in Bethlehem. Even when the Magi appear looking for the child, the priests take little time reporting Jesus’ prophetic birthplace.

Did they think they had plenty of time before they had to get ready? Jesus’ own people, who had specific prophetic indications when Jesus would appear, failed to be ready, and had to be reminded by Gentiles. Hmm. Sound familiar?

Many who allege to belong to Christ today are not ready for His return. They know He is coming. But are they ready with their life and work? Do we not know that we will be judged not only for accepting or not Jesus Christ, but also by the works we have done for Him? Christian consider this a warning. He is coming back for you. You need to be ready. Your life needs to reflect your passion for the Savior and your gratitude for your salvation. Getting baptized is not something to check off the list and wait for pickup. It is a necessary part of Jesus moving into your life. You need to grow and mature in faith so that at His coming He may say to you, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

The Magi brought gifts to the child Jesus. What spiritual offerings do you bring?

God bless you today.

Becoming Flesh

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (Joh 1:14)

A simple word: “became.” But the process behind it is beyond our comprehension. How did this “Word” pour Himself into flesh? How did the Second Person of the Trinity shed all of his glory and take on a human nature? This has occupied the minds of theologians for centuries and volumes have been written on the subject, so there is very little I could add to the discussion here.

Suffice it to say that how the Word became flesh is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. The only way I can understand it is to understand that each of us has a soul, a spirit entity attached to our bodies that we call “me.” It is this soul that inhabits the organic hardware of our flesh and is our bridge between the material world and the spirit world. It is this soul which gives us spiritual awareness, and what leaves this body when the body dies.

I believe that instead of a normal human-sized soul, Christ possessed His eternal nature within His flesh, powered-down so-to-speak to fit within the hardware of his human body. A very limited version of His Second Person Spirit was what we got to see walking around. But it was this combination of flesh and Spirit that gave us Christ.

But instead of shedding His bodily form at death, He instead chose a renewed body at His resurrection, one capable of handling His true nature. Jesus’ resurrected body has become a permanent part of Him, identifying with us for eternity. It is as if Christ bound Himself to His creation permanently by wearing our form forever as our High Priest and Intercessor. And upon this body He bears the wounds of the cross. They too are a permanent reminder of what He suffered.

For the God who does not change, the Word accepted great changes on our behalf. He is no longer limited in power, but the God who had no form we could behold took on our form so that we could relate to Him and have relationship with Him. This is not a God content to sit in Heaven and wait for us. He reaches out to us, reveals Himself to us, so that He could day to Philip, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

Blessed be the name of the Lord. God bless you today.